We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia (2 Cor 8:1)
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul describes the Macedonian’s giving as an act of God’s grace. Their giving was a living witness to the grace of God in their lives. Giving is a natural expression of a life that has been changed by the gospel. True Godly giving is not of our own doing, but of the work of Christ through us. If you want to be a witness for Christ, one significant way to do that is to excel in the grace of giving.
As you seek to be a witness for Christ, note the characteristics of giving exhibited by the Macedonian church:
Grace leads to joyful giving
2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
Paul begins by speaking of their “overflow of joy.” As God works in our lives, giving is the overflow of God’s working in us. The word “overflow” appears twice in the Greek, as both a noun and verb, so that it translates literally “their overflow . . . overflowed” or “their abundance . . . abounded.” The Macedonian believers give out of their overflow – not the overflow of their financial resources, but rather the overflow of the joy God’s grace had produced in them. Giving is the overflow of God’s work of grace in us. If you have the joy of the Lord, giving will be part of the overflow of that joy and a visible witness of that joy.
Grace leads to sacrificial giving
3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means
The Macedonians themselves faced financial hardship, but they graciously gave even beyond their ability to do so. They did not give what was left over or what they could afford after all their other felt needs were met. They gave sacrificially – they gave up something in order to give. When we give sacrificially to minister to others, we are witnessing to the fact that there is something greater than ourselves. Our desire to follow Christ is seen in our willingness to deny ourselves in order to give to others.
Grace leads to willful giving
3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,
Paul explains in verse 3, that the Macedonian Christians did not give because they were compelled to do so (cf. 9:7). Rather, they gave of their own accord. In other words, it was their idea. When Paul presented the financial need of the Jerusalem believers, there was no arm-twisting, no passionate pleas for money, no guilt-inducing sermons. The Macedonians willingly gave. When we give willingly, we witness to the fact that following Christ is not out of obligation or duty, but out our love for Him.
Grace leads to eager giving
4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints 5 and this, not as we expected
If your pastor forgot to take up the offering, would anybody mind? When Paul was collecting an offering for the needy, the Macedonians though themselves poor said – “hey, don’t overlook us – we may not have much, but we want the opportunity to give.” What an unexpected response! Rather than being reluctant to give, they were eager and sought out Paul for the opportunity to take part in the offering. Such a giving spirit is the fruit of a life changed by God’s grace. We want to be a part of what God is doing. We look forward to the opportunity to give. Eagerness in giving is a clear witness of God’s grace in our own lives and the importance we place on loving others and ministering in Jesus’ name.
Grace leads to self-giving
5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
Perhaps the most important aspect of giving seen in the Macedonian church is that giving of their financial resources was a giving of themselves. If we look for the reason for their gift – why they gave in such a remarkable way – we see the grace of God at work. As a result of God’s work of grace in their lives, the Macedonian believers gave themselves to the Lord and then to His mission. This is what the gospel does. It leads us to respond to the grace of God by giving ourselves wholly to the Lord. Earlier in the letter, Paul explains, “He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and rose again.” Grace-filled giving goes beyond merely parting with our finances. We give of ourselves to the Lord and to others.
Paul concludes with a challenge to us. As the Macedonians have given us this example of grace-filled giving, what should be OUR response?
We must excel in the Grace of Giving
6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you —see that you excel in this act of grace also.
Paul does not negate the importance of faith, speech, knowledge, and the many other aspects of living the Christian life. If you’re going to live for Christ and be His witnesses, let me challenge you with this thought…
The best evidence of God working in your life is not what you believe,
The best evidence of God working in your life is not what you say,
The best evidence of God working in your life is not what you know,
The best evidence of God working in your life is not what you intend,
The BEST evidence of God working in your life is what you DO.
If you want to be a living witness of the Grace of God in your life, excel in the GRACE of Giving!